The Interview, Part 2
The Interview, Part 2
Old Dog Records, One Degree of Separation, and More
This is part of our interview with Jonathan Eldridge and Joshua Griffin, who, together, form The Trading Co., an Oklahoma City-based blues-rock duo. They visited us shortly before their Old Dog Records showcase, which took place in late February at the Route 66 Roadhouse. Also on the ticket were label mates the Kamals and Black Jack Gypsys. Check out the gallery of pics from that show after you finish reading.
Mercury Photo BureauHow did Old Dog Records form?
Joshua GriffinWe met [the Kamals] a little while back; [Jonathan]’s brother is friends with those guys, so that’s how we got hooked up with [them], and they’ve […] been talking about recording and possibly opening up a studio. So we […] joined forces with those guys and Old Dog was born.
Jonathan EldridgeWhen we recorded our first demo/EP thing, we were planning on going to Travis Linville, and then my brother Michael said,
You gotta call Zak [Kaczka]; he’s started doing this and he’s got this equipment, so we went […] and talked to him. And he was more excited than we were […]. The first day, we tracked three songs almost completely […]. I was really surprised by how much we got done and how fast.
JoshuaYeah, we were done with that EP in a week-and-a-half.
JonathanWe finished that, and a little bit of time [passed] and we got back together with a couple of the guys [from the Kamals], and we came up with this idea of
Let’s all work together; we’ve got everything we need to run a studio. We had a bunch of equipment, mics, guitars, amps; Zak had a real nice 24-channel board, old tape machines, stuff like that.
MPBI hear you have a connection to the James Gang?
JoshuaWe found — we kinda looked around for a while, looking for [an analogue] tape machine, and we finally found [a pair].
JonathanAn eight-channel and a two-channel ¼″; just a half-track, old Tascam, probably late ’60s or early ’70s.
We’d had an old Otari we’d used on [the EP], and it’s a nice model, but we were looking for something a little more professional. We found [the] Tascam in Cleveland, which, as the story goes, was used by the James Gang. […] The Guy we bought it from was either the second or third owner. There was one track on some ¼″ that had some information on it, and […] some very sketchy paperwork that assumed some things that made you believe that [it had been used by the James Gang]. Whether it was or not, it’s a fun story, and we all like Funk #49, so we like to think it was.
MPBYou released your first full length as a vinyl LP.
JoshuaWhen we were sending stuff into a local radio station, [we sent it out on a “burned” CD labeled with a Sharpie because there was no CD pressing]. And I got a “constructive” criticism back [from the station] saying,
You should do this,and you should do this, and the next day, I just took a [vinyl] copy up [to the station]. And he’s like,
Aw, man, you did vinyl?, and I was like,
Yeah, we didn’t think you could play this, so we burned you a homemade CD.
JonathanThe decision to [release on] vinyl is probably my fault. I felt like the CD is kind of a dead format; […] vinyl has its limitations […], but the problem with CD, which theoretically can have so much more dynamic range […], is that nobody ever uses it; everybody compresses their music so much that [it’s never achieved].
JoshuaWe try to keep it as basic as possible, and the simplest is usually the best. Going back to the vinyl, we definitely got a lot more recognition, like, somebody that might not necessarily pay much attention [to us], they give you another look,
Oh, you guys did vinyl? especially from true music lovers […].
MPBYour penchant for simplicity, that seems to apply to your lyrics, too; they’re Hemingway-esque in their effiency, while still retaining a poetic quality. It seems you eschew simile and metaphor; you simply tell a story and tell it like it is. Do you agree?
JonathanFor the most part. There is some subtext […].
MPBI agree that there’s subtext; one of the things about Hemingway was that his subtext was implied by what he didn’t say. In that sense, I think there’s plenty of subtext in your songs.
JonathanAs far as metaphors, I agree — there’s probably not — maybe I’m just not smart enough to write them that way [laughs]. All the ones I worked up, I’m usually telling a story […] to convey an emotion or a feeling. [I’ll sometimes ask someone to come up with a feeling or an idea for me to write about.] The hard part is [coming up with] what that feeling is.
JoshuaThere’s lyrics that I’ve written that may sound like I’m trying to convey one thing and I’m […] really thinking of another. Like, on Find You, there’s a love-hate thing going on there, and I’m not really sure which is which.
MPBThere are similar language and themes in Find You and also in Long Lost Friend; was that deliberate?
JonathanJoshua wrote Find You and I wrote Long Lost Friend. I didn’t even know it happened [laughs] until you just mentioned it.
One thing that makes, not only [Josh and me] close, but also me and several of my friends, is that […] they’ve all been through […] a situation where they’ve dated someone and felt […] they weren’t getting the full story. […] Whether it’s valid or reasonable doesn’t matter, ’cause that’s what you felt. […]
MPBWhere do the Black Jack Gypsys fit into the Old Dog Records family?
Jonathan[…] [Their drummer, Rob Derrick,] was at [the Trading Co. EP] sessions. […] They were a duo — guitar and drums — at that time; we were a duo — guitar and drums — and I don’t know if [Rob] was there to “check out the competition” or what it was, but those guys are [now] good friends of ours; Zak [Lindahl] had been friends with them for years; I had known of them for a little while […].
MPBDid either of them play in the “barn band”? [Sidenote: For an explanation of the “barn band,” see the Kamals interview.]
JonathanNo, [their current bassist], Zak Lindahl, he was in the barn band; it was actually his [mother’s] barn. He played guitar along with Zak Kaczka […]; Loren Williams from the Kamals played drums, and then a guy named Matt Jewell still plays with them on and off. We’ve talked — he and I, and others — […] about getting together a side project.
So, the Black Jack Gypsys put out an EP [the eponymous Black Jack Gypsys — Ed.] on Old Dog about a year ago; I don’t think they’ve been playing a lot of shows. [Sidenote: They have appeared in a pair of Old Dog Records showcases and some other shows since we conducted this interview.] I think they’ve been working on recording and getting new songs together […].
MPBHave you toured yet?
Joshua[We’ve] just [played] the Oklahoma City area. We definitely want to do some [touring]; you know, Austin … we have some connections in Fayetteville; we’d like to do a couple of shows up there. But work is […] restricting […]. I think we could take off for a weekend —
JonathanI don’t think that’s stopping us —
JoshuaNo, no; it’s getting in some of these venues, just trying to make a connection with somebody, you know. Somebody says,
Hey, come on down, and we string a couple [of shows] together […].
We talked about doing it; we really want to do it. We’re probably recording an EP soon, in the next year —
JoshuaEither an EP, if we decided to do it, but […] we’re only a couple of songs away from [having enough material] for a full length [album].
JonathanI’d really like to [record] a live, in-studio album. No overdubs.
JoshuaHave a studio audience come in; once we have a studio established. That’s been our only holdup so far.
MPBYou mentioned during a break that you still need to promote your new album further. Please elaborate.
JonathanYou know, the album’s only been out for just over a month now.
For all you kids out there, the hardest part of being in a band is not playing the instruments or recording the music; it’s convincing people to listen to it and convincing people to let you play shows.
We’ve done okay so far, but we have […] jobs and other constraints. We’ve mailed out to tons of blogs; hopefully, this interview’s gonna be seen by millions […] [laughter]. It’s things like that: submitting [the album] to different online entities, as well as brick-and-mortar places. […]
MPBWhat’s on your iPods right now?
JonathanThey’re actually good friends of ours.
JoshuaYou should check them out. [They’re a] band from Iowa —
JonathanIf you like ’60s psychedelic rock, you will like these guys. [Parker Griggs] is a guy that, his musical style ended with MC5.
MPBSame question for you, Jonathan.
JonathanI’ve been a little weird lately; like Hayes Carll, which, that’s not weird; it’s great music. Charles Bradley; I love old Motown, Stax soul; I kinda like the old — you know, John Fullbright just got nominated for a Grammy.
MPBTerry Ware[, his guitarist,] is my neighbor.
JonathanI just got that album the other day. I’d been listening to that live one forever, but I just picked up the new one on vinyl the other day.
Josh mentioned the Black Crowes; I think they’re a big influence on us; I think Warpaint and Before the Frost are both great albums, that I think, because they came later, […] got overlooked. And there’s the Beatles, Neil Young, stuff like that that’ll never go off my iPod.
JoshuaJonathan likes more of the country stuff, and I like the heavier psychedelic stuff.
JonathanThe other thing about my iPod is I’m an NPR freak, so I listen to [NPR podcasts] every day.
MPBSince you mention NPR, there’s something I like to ask every musician, a little thing I stole from Terry Gross, that I call,
Redeem a Song. What’s a song you love, but might be embarrassed to admit it, and why do you love it?
JoshuaThere’s a band called the Trishas. They’re a great band, but they’re really country. I love them; I think they’re great songwriters, but I can see somebody being surprised that I like them, knowing what kind of music I listen to. There’s a song called Trouble about My Soul; it’s frome their EP [it’s out of print on CD, but you can get it from iTunes — Ed.].
I kinda stumbled upon these girls; I went snow skiing a couple of years ago and they were having the first annual Songwriters’ Winter Fest in Red River [, NM]. In between runs and drinking Jäger at the bottom of the hill, a couple of girls came in and set up in the corner of the room with a lap steel and — I can’t remember what the other girl had, like an acoustic and a hollow body — and I was telling my friends that I could tell these chicks are gonna be good and we oughta stick around for them. I ended up watching their whole set.
Jonathan[…] Justin Timberlake. […] Not necessarily N’ Sync. Yeah, just the talent, and [he’s] a very good singer; it’s something I struggled with, singing, when I first started music, and I feel like I’ve grown by listening to people who can sing better than me. He can definitely sing better than me, but I don’t claim to have learned from him.
MPBName a specific song?
JonathanWell, I’d like to bring SexyBack.
MPBHave you done it yet?
JonathanUh, I just held onto it. I never let go of it.
MPBThis is something you would sing in the shower?
JonathanYou know, I never sing in the shower; I always sing in the car. In my own —
MPBYou know that people can see you in the car.
JoshuaI see people do that all the time; I look over and I’m like,
I hope I don’t ever do that.
Jonathan— in my own foolishness, I probably increased my ability to sing, more than anything, [by listening to] Aretha Franklin. Because, she is the greatest singer of all time, and anyone who wants to argue [about that] is wrong. I mean, I can’t sing what she sings, but I can try, and it makes me better. Mavis Staples is the same way [for me].
MPBMakes sense, given the paper thin line between blues and gospel.
MPBThank you both for coming down.
Gallery: Route 66 Roadhouse
Gallery: Route 66 Roadhouse
Old Dog Records Showcase